Thursday, February 9, 2012, we spent the afternoon with Chuck’s Tanta. Age 89 and in hospice care with liver cancer, she was clearly in her final days. I sat by her bedside and talked to her. I named every family member that had been in touch with us and passed their love onto her. Then I began reviewing the bidding. I recounted all the ways she had been a good woman: a daughter, a sister, a sister-in-law, a friend, an aunt, a great aunt, a member of her community. I let a cascade of names and good memories wash over her. In the living room, one of Tanta’s caregivers, “A” could hear me over the baby monitor we had set up. She asked Chuck if Tanta was talking to me. He said no, but that we believed she could hear or, at the very least, sense, what was being said to her. “A” nodded quietly in agreement.
The next morning, just after 6:00 a.m., the phone rang. Our niece Carrie was calling with the news that her sister Kate's water had broken. With that call we were off on the Kate, Phil and Baby Finn adventure! We arrived at Beth Israel Deaconess at Noon. We have been to Beth Israel with Tanta more times than we can count. This was the first time we had ever been to Beth Israel for a joyous occasion and we have to say we thoroughly enjoyed it!
When the news of Kate's impending C-section came to "Team Finn" sometime after midnight, we all had to make decisions. The predicted snowstorm and distance between hospital and homes were factors. While the rest of the family needed to leave, we stayed. We felt that we had all planted the Baby Finn Family Flag in the lobby and that our circumstances allowed us to remain and hold down the fort.
We rearranged our camp in the lobby and dozed on and off until Phil brought us the very good news of Finn's arrival: 9 pounds, 5 ounces (4.22 kilograms), 21 inches long! He also told us the equally good news that Kate was well! After that, Chuck took to the floor and got about two hours of sleep. I followed suit across two chairs. Soon Phil came and escorted us upstairs. After the delight of being able to see Kate, to know she really was well, to meet the fabulous Finn and to see the newly expanded family settled in their room, we took our leave.
As we headed home out of Boston we thought about stopping in Brookline to visit Tanta, but because it was so early and we needed to get some solid sleep in our own bed we decided to head home. Driving along the Mass Pike and then Route 9 we felt lucky that the predicted snow was just a dusting and that the roads weren't bad at all. Just before the Shrewsbury-Worcester line the cell phone rang. It was one of Chuck’s Tanta's caregivers calling to tell us she had died peacefully in her sleep.
We found ourselves at another decision point. Home would have to wait. We began making phone calls, grabbed a quick breakfast at Blanchard’s 101 Diner in Worcester and headed back from Worcester for Brookline. We were able to be with Tanta for a bit and said our final good byes by singing the Bedtime Shema. We also witnessed a very dignified transition performed by two gracious young women from the funeral home. Then we escorted her body downstairs to the vehicle.
The rest of the day was spent making phone calls, working out details with the funeral home about Tuesday's service and tending to things at her condo. We finally arrived home about 9:30 p.m. Saturday night, fed three justifiably disgruntled cats and at long last headed for bed.
We were in touch with everyone on Chuck's side of the family on Saturday, but we chose not to share the news with anyone on little Finn’s side until the next day. While none of them were close to Tanta, we did not want any mention of death to be part of such a joyful day.
We are saddened by Tanta’s passing. Yet we know we did everything to fulfill her wishes including her deep desire to die at home in her own bed, just as her own mother had in 1989, with her youngest daughter, our Tanta, by her side.
Zichrona liveracha ~ Her memory is a blessing.
For Finn and for all of us:
L’chaim! ~ To life!